A couple of quiet weeks ahead before The Hobbit arrives on December 14th. This week brings us the dark thriller, Killing Them Softly, which stars Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins. The plot sees a couple of low-rung criminals deciding to rob a mob-controlled card game, figuring no one will suspect them given that the guy in charge of the game (Liotta) had already robbed one previously. But the mob aren't going to take it lying down and hire ruthless enforcer Jackie Cogan (Pitt) to get to the bottom of the situation and bring about swift retribution. Set against a background of economic turmoil in America, Cogan soon discovers not even he (or the mob) is immune to the cost cutting affecting the country, but that a job still has to be done regardless. The film is based on the 1974 novel, Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins and was adapted for the screen by writer/director Andrew Dominik. Dominik shot to fame thanks to his violent black comedy debut, Chopper (which starred Eric Bana) before teaming up with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck for the acclaimed Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Work began on what was originally called Cogan's Trade back in 2010, and by November of that year, the film was announced as a go-project, with early rumors suggesting Pitt would re-team with Dominik to take on the lead role.
Those stories were confirmed a month later when the actor officially joined the picture (the director stated that Pitt agreed to star during a text message exchange which took just 30 minutes). Further casting was announced in early 2011 with the movie set to commence shooting in March, primarily in Louisiana. Having had running time issues with the studio over Jesse James, it looked as though history was set to repeat when the original cut of the new picture clocked in at over two and half hours. However Dominik continued to work on the project, eventually resulting in a very tight 97 minute cut. Cogan's Trade became Killing Them Softly just prior to receiving its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. Early reviews were very positive and it has continued to collect strong notices as its release date loomed closer. The Weinstein Company originally had a September release date in place but pushed the flick back to avoid Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (Killing Them Softly has already seen release in Australia, Russia and a number of other territories, including the UK, where it made $4M). Curiously, despite being set to debut at an estimated 2,000 locations, pre-release hype and advertising have been incredibly low key, meaning that the film may well end up being lost among the bigger existing releases this weekend.
The only other major release this Friday is horror sequel, The Collection, a follow up to the July 2009 cult hit The Collector. In the original film, a thief breaks into a house only to discover The Collector, a vicious serial killer, is already there and has set up a number of horrific traps, some of which have already been sprung on the unfortunate residents of the house. The thief faced a race against time to get the family's young daughter to safety without falling foul of the deadly devices and The Collector himself. The picture actually began life as The Midnight Man, and at one point was proposed as a prequel to the Saw series, but that idea was quickly abandoned. Opening in 2009 at 1,325 theaters the $4M budgeted horror went on to make just under $8M domestically with another million or so dollars coming from its DVD release.
With only minor success, writer Patrick Melton (who co-scripted the final four Saw movies) was taken aback when producers approached him to write a follow up. Deals were hammered out and a sequel, The Collection, began shooting in October 2010. Melton and co-writer Marcus Dunstan would return, with the later once again acting as director. The story this time around would see the daughter of a wealthy businessman kidnapped by the Collector and kept in his maze-like hotel full of brutal traps and devices. The father decides to hire a group of mercenaries to retrieve her, and blackmails the only man to escape The Collector's deadly grasp to lead them. With recent theatrical horror releases favoring frights over gore, The Collection might find itself out in the cold this weekend, but as we've seen numerous times in the past, particularly with the Saw and Hostel series, there is a market for this kind of visceral flick. At the time of writing, The Collection is set to debut nationwide.